Storms of Iron and Copper: Reflections on the Social Impact of Industrial Technology in the Nineteenth-Century U.S.-Mexico Borderlands

Across the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands, the extractive industries carved complex social and environmental changes that deeply affected the landscape and communities of the region. Private companies and governments collaborated to build new railroads to support mining and other commercial endeavors, while new groups of people arrived in search of work. Long-standing views of proper conduct within frontier society gave way to hegemonic ideas of what it meant to be a “good citizen.” These transformations were closely linked to the deployment of new time-saving technologies that mobilized capital resources on behalf of state and corporate agents. This essay offers brief reflections on the impact of technical infrastructures and industrialization on everyday life in northern Mexico and the U.S. southwest during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Continue reading

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Call for Borderlands History Syllabi

Hello Borderlands History Blog followers. As the summer comes to an end and the 2014/2015 academic year rapidly approaches (perhaps a bit too rapidly), we at  the Borderlands History Blog have decided to create an interdisciplinary syllabus repository for courses on the U.S./Mexico, North American, and Global borderlands. Our ultimate goal is to establish a space where academics and teachers of all levels can access the latest information on the reading and visual materials, sources, methods, and assessments their colleagues use to aid students’ understanding of these diverse regions. Along with submissions from the field of History, we also encourage those from areas such as Anthropology, Comparative Borderlands Studies, English, Ethnic Studies,Indigenous Studies, Latino/a Studies, Sociology, and Women’s and Gender Studies. Syllabi from fields not mentioned above are also encouraged! Please send your submissions as PDF attachments to Dr. Kendra Moore at and have a wonderful summer.

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Borderlands and Transnational History at the 2014 Western History Association Conference

The Western History Association will hold its 54th annual conference in Newport Beach, California on October 15-18.

  Like last year, I have gone through the preliminary program to highlight panels deals with Borderlands or Transnational history. The conference theme is “The West & the World” so hopefully that will lend to some good transnational themes. I was on the program committee for this year’s conference and there are some great panels lined up, including some non-Borderlands ones that I might highlight in a later post. As always, the timing of the panels causes conflicts. In some time-slots there are multiple relevant panels, and in others, none. Overall, there do not seem to be as many as last year, but there are some other non-borderlands panels that look excellent and will make up for it! Plus, it can’t be borderlands all day and all night, can it?

Read the list here.

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Tucson’s Shrine to “El Tiradito”

Brett Hendrickson, a Religious Studies scholar at Lafayette University, wrote the following piece  for the blog  Religion in the American West on the folk saint “El Tiradito” and his shrine in Tucson, Arizona. Hendrickson has studied and written about curanderismo and folk saints in depth. His book, Border Medicine: A Transcultural History of Mexican American Curanderismo,  (link) is coming out at the end of 2014 from New York University Press. I met him at the University of New Mexico’s annual “Traditional Healing Without Borders” class two summers ago, and we have stayed in touch ever since.  Last fall we participated in a panel on Religion and Healing in the Borderlands at the 2013 Western Historical Conference and we continue to share ideas and information about curanderismo in the  U.S.-Mexico borderlands. Brett agreed to let me share this piece, originally posted on the  Religion in the American West  blog he regularly contributes to.

May 30, 2014
Tucson’s Shrine to “El Tiradito”

by Brett Hendrickson

On both sides of the international border with Mexico, devotions to so-called folk saints flourish. Some of the major figures include Jesús Malverde, the Niño Fidencio, and—of late (pun intended)—Santa Muerte. Often unorthodox, these figures once operated on the institutional edges of Catholicism, but nowadays, they often extend their power and care over devotees with multiple religious backgrounds and histories. Unlikely ever to gain official canonization, borderlands folk saints nevertheless remain the focus of a great deal of material religious activity. Continue reading

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The Importance of Transnational Research


The U.S.-Mexico border is much more than just a line on a map. It is an open wound, a line in the sand, a political construct, a paradoxical place of division and connection, a marker of imagined projections of territorial power, a place that eludes state control.* Over the course of the past two hundred years, the border has transformed from a shifting line on maps, to a “line in the sand,” to an increasingly marked, built, and “fixed” border. Today’s border dissects so many things, yet it remains porous. People, animals, pathogens, drugs, money, ideas, religion, food, goods, water, and countless other things cross the border daily and nothing suggests that this movement will cease—no matter how big a wall we build. And yet, many who study the U.S.-Mexico border treat the border as if there is something absolute about it: many U.S. historians who study the U.S.-Mexico borderlands never research south of the borderline.

In Fugitive Landscapes: The Forgotten History of the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands, Samuel Truett writes that, “Most Americans have forgotten transnational histories not only because they have trusted maps of the nation, but also because they have succumbed to the siren-song of the state (p.5).” Many historians of the U.S.-Mexico borderlands fit this description, but we don’t have to, nor should we.

Continue reading

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Bizarre Borders on the Zigg-Zaggy U.S. Canadian Border

Here’s a great video by the CGP Grey people people about some things you may not have known about the creation of the U.S. Canadian border, and how imprecise it is.

Via NPR:‘Don’t Touch Me,’ Said Canada. ‘I Won’t!’ Said The U.S.A. So They Moved 20 Feet Apart

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“Educating the Native in His Land:” Exploring Nineteenth and Twentieth–Century Imperialism within the Global American Borderlands, 1850s to 1950s

This analysis will explore colonial interactions within two U.S. foreign involvements through the lens of Borderlands History: the Philippines and Hawaii. Using the lens of interaction as a category of analysis, I will talk about how sexual and racial anxieties experienced by populations outside of North America have been in ongoing tension and unremitting negotiation with the American nation. By intentionally placing the Philippines and Hawaii into the realm of borderlands, scholars can further explore the transnational nature of borders, imperialisms, and societies.

The Philippines

As Julian Go contends, U.S. imperialism in the Philippines was singular for many reasons: the 1898 Treaty of Paris ceded the archipelago to the Americans rather than to Filipinos, and the terms of appropriation involved the “legally codified establishment of direct political domination over a foreign territory and peoples.”[1] Island occupation spoke to the larger phenomenon surrounding the emergence of modern empires, such as the U.S., Japan and the U.K., as well as their shared goal in the acquisition of land. Their distant location and increasing western interests made the islands not only “exceptional,” but also illustrative of efforts to colonize societies located far beyond the continent. Continue reading

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Doing Research in Local Archives

photo 2

I recently took a research trip to South Texas to further investigate the turn-of-the-century curandero (faith healer) Don Pedrito Jaramillo, one of the subjects of my dissertation. The main purpose of this trip was to look at the J.T. Canales Estate Papers at the South Texas Archives at Texas A&M-Kingsville. I told myself that if I had time, I would travel to the place Don Pedrito lived from approximately 1881 until his death in 1907: Falfurrias, a town of about five thousand people, forty miles southeast of Kingsville and 120 miles north of the Brownsville-Matamoros border-crossing. I figured a day would be adequate as I mainly wanted to visit the Don Pedrito Jaramillo Shrine that I had discovered the previous summer on a similar research trip, and experience the place where Don Pedrito spent part of his life healing people. I did not plan to find “factual” historical evidence in Falfurrias useful for my dissertation, yet the day spent in Falfurrias was invaluable to my research in ways I did not foresee. The visit changed the way I think about history and about the stories we tell as historians. Continue reading

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Review: Manifesting America: The Imperial Construction of U.S. National Space

Rifkin, Mark. Manifesting America: The Imperial Construction of U.S. National Space. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009. 290 pp. Paperback. $26.96.


Mark Rifkin’s Manifesting America is a pathbreaking and discipline-shattering examination of 1810 to 1850s imperial and subaltern rhetoric between U.S. national authorities and marginalized populations such as Amerindians, early Californios, and ethnic Mexicans. Rifkin extrapolates American legal documents such as the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo to illustrate how the imperial structure of U.S. jurisdiction over the last two centuries created a “simulation of consent” between marginalized peoples and the state (5). He argues that the ways “internalized populations” appropriated and contested North American geographies in a range of “non-fictional writings” demonstrates how U.S. imperial hegemony became embedded in the very language and society of these peoples (6–7).

Manifesting America is divided into four complementary chapters, each examining the manner in which the government articulated sovereignty and authority over contested lands. The first part deconstructs the rhetoric of the 1830 Indian Removal Act and how the U.S. framed “a certain geopolitical grammar” to justify America’s forced migration of Amerindians, especially Cherokees (49, 57). The second chapter examines the rhetoric of popular American figures like Thomas Jefferson and explains how war and expansion exacerbated the legal “inbetweeness” of Anglos and Amerindians (78). The next section investigates Texan property holdings and draws connections between the political identity and economic privilege of ethnic Mexicans, Comanches and Tejanos. The last chapter inspects Californio land claims with the “reservation-paradigm” that allowed the vehicle of violence to legally place indigenous land in the ownership of Anglos and Californios. Each segment of the book provides the reader with several examples of how American imperial rhetoric placated and abused marginalized peoples, and irrevocably appropriated land into national space. Continue reading

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On Comparative Methodology, My Book Manuscript, and Haake’s The State, Removal and Indigenous Peoples in the United States and Mexico

This was originally posted at as a part of an ongoing book review series, “From the Bookshelf.”
The content is not explicitly borderlands but seems relevant to the field.

Back when I was working on my dissertation, I was put in contact with a scholar in Australia – Claudia B. Haake – as her recent monograph was relevant to my research in its content and methodology. Her book, The State, Removal and Indigenous Peoples in the United States and Mexico, 1620-2000, is a comparative treatment of the forced removals of Lenapes (Delawares) by the United States, and Yaquis by Mexico.  As 1/2 of my dissertation dealt with Yaquis crossing the U.S.-Mexican border into the United States, the related scholarship on Porfirian forced removal (enslavement, actually) of Yaquis to the Yucatan was an important backdrop for explaining the flight of Yaqui refugees to Arizona and other points north. The content of her book highlighted some very useful sources that I had yet to uncover.
Continue reading

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